National Aboriginal Addictions Awareness Week will be marked locally with a whole week of activities this year.
Running Nov. 13-19, the week is meant to “promote an addictions-free lifestyle by allowing communities to develop an increased knowledge and awareness of addictions, and how the families and communities can come together and address these issues,” explained Albert Calder of the Native Alcohol and Drug Abuse Program (NADAP), one of the organizers for the week’s events along with Couchiching’s Treatment and Support Services Centre and the United Native Friendship Centre.
With the theme of Mino-Pimatisiwin, or “Living the Good Life,” the week aims to make people aware of the negative impact of addictions on both families and communities, said Calder, while encouraging communities and families to come together in a positive way.
In the past, the week often has been marked by a walk and a one-day information session.
But this year, Calder said they’re aiming to have a week filled with events.
“We’ll start off Sunday with a pipe ceremony, feast, sacred items, and we’ll have a speaker to share a personal journey in how traditional ways aided her recovery,” noted Calder, referring to the first day’s event which will start at 10 a.m. at the Treatment and Support Services Centre.
Then on Monday, there will be an addictions-free walk throughout Couchiching to “celebrate living the good life,” Calder added.
The walk will start around 5 p.m. at the centre, which will be followed by a bonfire and wiener roast.
A drum social is set for Tuesday from 5-9 p.m. at the Couchiching multi-use facility while Wednesday will feature an open house from 10 a.m.-2 p.m. at the treatment and support centre.
People can come in and talk to the workers who are there to help people with addictions, noted Calder, who can show them what resources are available when it comes to addiction treatments.
Thursday evening will be a community fun night, with sports and games for all ages, along with snacks and a speaker, at the multi-use facility from 6-9 p.m.
Then Friday’s activities, also at the multi-use facility, will begin with karaoke around 6 p.m., followed by a dance and live entertainment featuring “Distant Legacy” and a First Nation fiddler.
As part of the week, organizers also are holding a poster contest on the theme of “Living a Good Life” for anyone up to the age of 25.
More information on the poster contest will be given out at Sunday’s event, with judging to take place on the Friday evening.
“We’re trying to get the message out there,” stressed Calder. “Make it so people can get back their choices, and [make] positive choices.
“It’s a start,” he conceded. “We don’t know what the turnout will be.
“If we get this going and keep on doing something, then people will start coming,” he reasoned. “But for the first time, I don’t know what to expect.
“It’s up to the people,” Calder said. “The effort is ours, the outcome is up to the people.”
Calder added they hope to see the week go off successfully, and then hopefully next year it can grow with more community workers and programs becoming involved.
“The more programs we can get in the next year, the better off we are, the more people we can reach,” he remarked, stressing the need to spread awareness about addictions to all communities within the region.
“It’s not only Couchiching that’s affected by the addictions,” Calder noted. “It’s Fort Frances and all the surrounding First Nations and all the little towns around the district.
“So as much awareness as we can get out there, the better off everybody’s going to be.”